In 1916, the First World War Zeppelin raids on London forced Mr Arthur Masson, who ran Lindisfarne School in Blackheath, Kent, to move his 50 young pupils to rural Worcestershire. Following the relocation, Abberley Hall was purchased with all furniture and fittings for £10,000 by Gilbert Ashton who joined as headmaster in 1921. Recruiting Leonard Greenwood and Michael Carr, this triumvirate presided over an increasingly large and successful school, re-named Abberley Hall. An early scholarship to Winchester enhanced the school’s reputation and soon there were over 70 boarders.
The iconic Clock Tower has breathtaking views across six counties and was built in 1884 by John Joseph Jones, a man of substantial wealth who had inherited the Abberley Hall estate.
The Clock Tower stands at 161 feet and has three lower rooms, a sewing room and a clock room.
The clock was made by J.B. Joyce of Whitchurch, the firm which still services it. The carillon consisted of 16 bells weighing a total of 21 tons.
The only time the Clock Tower was continuously inhabited was during the Second World War. It became a Home Guard observation post, reporting enemy aircraft making for Birmingham. The Clock Tower forms part of a private estate and is not open to visitors, except on advertised open days.
Gilbert was headmaster for forty years. He converted the Stable Block, including the area which houses the Chapel, and inspired the highest standards in work and games, establishing a close contact with Winchester College, to which frequent awards were won. He led the school through the difficulties of the 1930s and the years of the second World War, admirably supported by his wife, Joan, who with no training, cooked for the entire school during the war. Gilbert continued to serve as a Governor for twenty years after his retirement.
Gilbert's successor for the period 1961-74 was Ronnie Yates, a former housemaster at the Dragon School. Academic success continued, but games were reduced to a less dominant role while activities such as Art and Science blossomed. He increased the numbers to over 150.
In 1974 Michael Haggard was appointed headmaster, with impressive credentials; he was a former pupil of the school, an old Wykehamist and had taught at Abberley in the 1960s. He inherited a school which had fallen behind in terms of facilities but, following more than 20 years’ successful reign, represented one which was more impressively equipped, particularly in Music and Design Technology. than many public schools, and had its own junior department.
The arrival of John Walker in 1996 coincided with a difficult period for prep schools, during which time numbers had fallen. With great energy and initiative, he and his wife Janie made significant changes, including the introduction of girls. The school is now flourishing with considerable academic success and notable achievements in sport and the arts.